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Full text of "A History of the Personal Computer"

A History of the 
Personal Computer 



Blank page. 



A History of the 
Personal Computer 

The People and the Technology 



Roy A. Allan 



Allan Publishing 
London, Ontario, Canada. 



Copyright © 2001 by Roy A. Allan. All rights reserved. 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or 
distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a 
database or retrieval system without the prior written 
permission of the author, except for brief passages 
quoted in a review. 



First Edition 1.0 eBook 



National Library of Canada Cataloguing in 
Piiblication Data 

Allan, Roy A. , 1931- 

A history of the personal computer: the people 
and the technology 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 0-9689108-3-1 

1. Microcomputers— History . I. Title. 

QA76.17.A45 2001 004.16'09 C2001-901709-X 



Product names used in this book are for identification 
purposes only and may be registered trademarks or trade 
names of their respective owners. The author and 
publisher disclaim any and all rights in those marks. 



Every effort has been made to make this book as complete 
and accurate as possible, but no warranty or fitness is 
implied. The information provided is on an "as is" 
basis. The author and publisher have neither liability 
or responsibility to any person or entity with respect 
to any loss or damages arising from the information 
contained in this book. 



Additional copies or more information on the book are 
available from: Allan Publishing, 1624 Louise Blvd., 
London, Ontario, Canada. N6G 2R3 

Printed and bound in Canada. 



This book is dedicated to my dear wife Ann Louise for 
her constant care and support. 



Blank page. 



A History of the Personal Computer 



Contents 

Preface xii 

Acknowledgments xiv 



Part I .... The Historical Background i/i 

Chapter 1 Development of the Computer 1/3 

1.1 -- Original Digital Computers 1/3 

1.2 -- IBM 1/6 

1.3 -- Technology 1/8 

1.4 -- Software 1/12 

1.5 -- Other Developments 1/14 

1.6 -- Small Computer Systems 1/15 

Chapter 2 Personal Computing in the 1960's 2/3 

2.1 -- Time sharing 2/3 

2.2 -- Dartmouth DTSS and BASIC 2/5 

2.3 -- The First Personal Computer 2/7 

2.4 -- Small Computer Systems 2/8 

2.5 -- Graphics and the User Interface 2/9 

2.6 — Software 2/11 

2.7 -- Hobby & Amateur Computing 2/14 



Part II .... 1970's - The Altair/Apple Era 3/1 

Chapter 3 Microprocessors in the 1970's 3/5 

3.1 -- Intel 3/5 

3.2 -- Motorola 3/10 

3.3 -- Texas Instruments 3/12 

3.4 -- Other Companies 3/13 

3.5 -- Miscellaneous 3/16 



Vll 



viii A History of the Personal Computer 

Chapter 4 Transition to Microcomputers 4/1 



4.1 -- 


The 1970-74 Transition 


4/2 




4.2 -- 


MITS Altair 


4/8 




4.3 -- 


Other Computers --1975-76 


4/11 




4.4 -- 


Commodore 


4/15 




4.5 -- 


Tandy/Radio Shack 


4/16 




4.6 -- 


Atari 


4/17 




4.7 -- 


Other Computers --1977-79 


4/18 




Chapter 5 


Apple Computer in the 1970's 




5/1 


5.1 -- 


Wozniak/Jobs Early Years 


5/1 




5.2 -- 


Apple I Board 


5/4 




5.3 -- 


Founding of Apple Computer 


5/9 




5.4 -- 


Apple II 


5/10 




5.5 -- 


Apple Disk II Drive 


5/12 




5.6 -- 


1978/79 Activities 


5/13 




Chapter 6 


Microsoft in the 1970's 




6/1 


6.1 -- 


Gates/Allen Early Years 


6/1 




6.2 -- 


Altair/BASIC 


6/5 




6.3 -- 


The Albuquerque Years 


6/8 




6.4 -- 


Relocation to Seattle 


6/13 




Chapter 7 


Other Software in the 1970's 




7/1 


7.1 -- 


Operating Systems 


7/1 




7.2 -- 


Programming Languages 


7/3 




7.3 -- 


Word Processors 


7/6 




7.4 -- 


Spreadsheets 


7/8 




7.5 -- 


Databases 


7/9 




7.6 -- 


Miscellaneous 


7/10 





Part III ... 1980's - The IBM/Macintosh Era 8/1 

8/3 



Chapter 8 


Microprocessors in the 1980's 




8.1 -- 


Intel 


8/3 


8.2 -- 


Motorola 


8/6 


8.3 -- 


Other Microprocessors 


8/7 


8.4 -- 


Other Corporate Developments 


8/8 


Chapter 9 


The IBM Corporation 




9.1 -- 


Introduction 


9/1 


9.2 -- 


PC Approval and Development 


9/4 


9.3 -- 


The Original PC 


9/6 


9.4 -- 


The Following Models 


9/11 


9.5 -- 


Software 


9/19 


9.6 -- 


Corporate Activities 


9/23 



9/1 



Contents ix 
Chapter 10 Apple Computer in the 1980's 10/1 

10.1 -- Corporate & Other Activities 10/1 

10.2 — Apple III 10/9 

10.3 -- Apple II' s 10/11 

10.4 -- Lisa 10/14 

10.5 — Macintoshes 10/18 

Chapter 11 Competitive Computers 11/1 

11.1 — Tandy/Radio Shack 11/1 

11.2 -- Commodore 11/3 

11.3 — Osborne 11/6 

11.4 — Kaypro 11/8 

11.5 — Compaq 11/9 

11.6 -- NeXT 11/11 

11.7 — Miscellaneous 11/12 

Chapter 12 Microsoft in the 1980's 12/1 

12.1 -- Corporate & Other Activities 12/1 

12.2 — The IBM PC Software 12/11 

12.3 -- Operating Systems 12/15 

12.4 — Windows 12/17 

12.5 -- Languages 12/21 

12.6 -- Application Programs 12/22 

Chapter 13 Other Software in the 1980's 13/1 

13.1 -- Operating Systems 13/1 

13.2 -- Programming Languages 13/7 

13.3 -- Word Processors 13/9 

13.4 — Spreadsheets 13/13 

13.5 -- Databases 13/16 

13.6 -- Integrated Programs 13/19 

13.7 -- Miscellaneous 13/22 



Part IV .... 1990's -- Current Technology 14/1 

Chapter 14 Hardware in the 1990's 14/3 

14.1 -- Microprocessors 14/3 

14.2 — IBM Computers 14/8 

14.3 — Apple Computers 14/10 

14.4 — Other Computers 14/11 



X A History of the Personal Computer 

Chapter 15 Software in the 1990's 15/1 

15.1 — Microsoft 15/1 

15.2 — Apple Computer and IBM 15/7 

15.3 — Other Software 15/9 

15.4 — The Road Ahead 15/15 

Chapter 16 Corporate Activities in the 1990's 16/1 



Part V .... Bits and Bytes 17/1 

Chapter 17 Hardware and Peripherals 17/3 

17.1 — Memory 17/3 

17.2 -- Storage Devices 17/4 

17.3 -- Input/Output Devices 17/10 

17.4 -- Displays 17/11 

17.5 — Printers 17/12 

17.6 — Peripheral Cards 17/16 

17.7 — Modems 17/19 

17.8 — Miscellaneous 17/20 

Chapter 18 Magazines and Newsletters 18/1 

18.1 — The Beginning 18/1 

18.2 — Apple Publications 18/4 

18.3 — PC Publications 18/6 

18.4 — Other Publications 18/7 

18.5 — Reference 18/9 

Chapter 19 Other Companies, Organizations 

and People 19/1 

19.1 -- Early Organizations 

19.2 -- Conventions, Fairs and Shows 

19.3 -- Historical Organizations 

19.4 -- Retailers and Software 

Distributors 

19.5 -- Networks and Services 

19.6 -- Associations 

19.7 -- Other Companies and People 

Chapter 20 Miscellaneous Items 

20.1 — Bits and Bytes 

20.2 -- Reference Sources 

20.3 -- Standards and Specifications 

20.4 -- Terminology: Clarification 

and Origins 20/6 



19/1 




19/4 




19/6 




9/10 




9/13 




9/17 




9/20 






20/1 


20/1 




20/2 




20/3 





Contents xi 



Appendix A: Some Technical Details of 

Various Personal Computers AA/1 



Appendix B: Versions of DOS AB/1 



Bibliography 

Books Bibliography/l 

Periodicals BibliographY/27 



Index Index/ 1 



xii A History of the Personal Computer 



Preface 

This book has been compiled to fill a gap in 
personal computer literature. There are many 
biographical books about key individuals such as Bill 
Gates of Microsoft or John Sculley of Apple. Other books 
are also available providing details of certain 
companies and their products . These books quite 
naturally focus primarily on products associated with 
that particular individual or company. 

The intent of this book is to provide a 
consolidated coverage of the significant developments in 
the evolution of the personal computer and related 
products. The book has some emphasis on the technical 
and commercial aspects of the developments as compared 
to the social details of the participants . 

Part I of the book provides a historical 
background on the beginning of digital computer 
technology. It is a cursory overview of early 
developments in both hardware and software from the late 
1930 's to the late 1950 's. It also describes the start 
of personal computing in the 1960's. Starting with time- 
sharing, then simpler programming languages, the first 
personal computer and finally significant improvements 
to the user interface. 

Part II is devoted to the beginning of the 
microcomputer: This is "The Altair/Apple Era". It covers 
the period of the 1970 's when the original 
microprocessors gave birth to microcomputers such as the 
Altair in 1975 and to the Apple II in 1977. This is the 
exciting period during which the Byte magazine started, 
the Homebrew Computer Club was founded, VisiCalc was 
created and many other entrepreneurs helped to create 
the microcomputer industry. 

Part III is "The IBM/Macintosh Era" and describes 
the corporate commercialism of the industry. It is the 
period of the 1980 's which began with the introduction 
of the IBM personal computer in 1981, followed by the 
release of the Apple Macintosh computer in 1984. This 
was another exciting period as the industry evolved from 
small entrepreneurial companies into participation by 
large corporations. The basis of the personal computer 
market had changed from the "hacker" of hardware and 
software, to the utilization by business and the non- 
technical home user. 

Part IV is a brief overview of the hardware, 
software and corporate activities in the 1990 's. 

Part V of the book is called "Bit's and Bytes" 
and provides details of the peripherals, magazines, 
people, companies and other organizations associated 
with the personal computer. One chapter also discusses 



Preface xiii 

such items as reference sources, standards and 
terminology origins . 

An extensive bibliography and two appendixes have 
been provided. The bibliography has a section on books 
and another section on periodical articles that describe 
initial product releases and other items of 
significance. These two sources provide extensive 
reference material for those interested in further study 
of personal computer history. 

There are limitations on the amount and diversity 
of historical information that can be included in a book 
of this size. The amount of detail on a particular 
subject has therefore been limited to items of 
historical and commercial significance. As regards 
hardware, this has intentionally resulted in more detail 
on the significant early developments from Apple and 
IBM. In software there is greater coverage of details on 
the Microsoft Corporation and its significant products. 
Also the focus has been on North America, where most of 
the development in microprocessor and microcomputer 
technology has occurred. The references cited in the 
bibliography will extend each subject area as reguired. 

A few comments on gualif ication of dates and 
dollar figures for prices are appropriate. Dates are 
sometimes termed announced, introduced, launched, 
released and shipped. The dollar figures will vary 
depending on the manufacturer's list price, the price in 
advertising, the street price and the date of 
publication. There also tends to be some inconsistency 
in both dates and prices depending on the source. These 
variations in dates and prices tend to create some 
ambiguity. It is hoped that the reader will understand 
this and take the dates and prices in a relative sense 
within a historical context. 

I have been involved with computers for close to 
thirty years. However, my modest start was an assignment 
by General Motors to do the critical path planning on a 
vehicle prototype using an IBM 1130 computer. That 
humble beginning initiated my education and fascination 
with the technology. I do hope that you find this book 
as interesting and informative to read as it was to 
write . 

Roy A. Allan, 

London, Ontario, Canada 

June, 2 001. 



xiv A History of the Personal Computer 



Acknowledgements 

My thanks to Geoffrey R. Pendrill for his partial review 
of the manuscript and his valued suggestions. 

Photographs on the book cover are courtesy of: 

Apple Computer, Inc., Compaq Computer Corporation, 
Intel Corporation and International Business Machines 
Corporation . 

Finally my appreciation for access to the extensive 
library holdings at the University of Western Ontario.